Masai Mara safari in a hot air balloon

The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya offers good safaris all year, especially during the annual wildebeest migration from July to October.

The park is named after the local Maasai people; who have a fascinating culture that centers around their cattle, and the Mara River which divides the park. In 1984 the size of the Reserve was reduced to accommodate the Maasai’s cattle grazing on their ancestral lands. Many private conservancies exist around the Masai Mara to protect the critical part of the route used by wildebeests and zebras during the Great Migration.

The Masai Mara National Reserve is approximately 1 510km² and 275km from Nairobi. Flights are available daily from Nairobi Wilson Airport and there are several airstrips are in the Greater Masai Mara National Park.

The Mara is one of the best game reserves for predators. It is mainly open savannahs so this makes the wildlife easier to see. Spotting at least 4 of the Big 5 is almost guaranteed. However; the Black Rhino is a little more elusive (there is no White Rhino here).

Masai Mara safari
Masai Mara Cheetah with Zebra – Angama Mara

Best time to visit the Masai Mara

The best time to visit is between July and October for the Annual Great Migration (with September and October probably being the ultimate). Visitors witness about 2 million herbivores (particularly Wildebeests, Zebra, and Gazelles) passing through this area; escaping from the dryer conditions in the Serengeti in Tanzania. It is an amazing sight to see the lines of wildlife stretching as far as the eye can see across the Masai Mara plains. Although the migration pattern is well-known; the timing is dependant on the rains.

Following close behind the wildebeest and other herbivores are the predators therefore game-viewing of all types is at its best. Predators include the black-maned lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and vultures.

Lion catching wildebeest at Mara Plains
Lion catching wildebeest in Masai Mara at Mara Plains

As they cross the Mara River to reach the greener pastures of the Masai Mara, many fall prey to crocodiles and occasionally hippos. It is amazing to watch the wildebeest & zebras congregating at the river bank; waiting for the bravest to make the first move to cross the river while the ones that have already crossed; are calling from the other side, urging them on.

Other wildlife found in the Masai Mara National Reserve are elephants, impala, giraffe, antelope, jackal, baboons, ostriches; to name a few. Birdlife is abundant including over 53 different types of birds of prey, kestrels, hornbills, shrikes, sunbirds, and herons.

Grey Crowned Crane - Angama Mara
Grey Crowned Crane – Angama Mara

Due to the huge attraction of witnessing the migration; it does mean the Reserve is very busy at this time; whereas November until May is less crowded and still offers excellent safaris.

Masai Mara safari

Game drives offered in the main Reserve are excellent but off-road driving is not allowed.
The neighboring conservancies are able to offer activities that are not allowed in the reserve such as off-road driving, night game drives, bush walks, and horse riding safaris.

Hot Air Balloon safaris allow you to see the landscape and wildlife interactions from above – a sensational activity to include in your Masai Mara tour.